Target date moved back again for hotel near Cal U

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The target completion date has been moved back another year for a planned hotel near California University of Pennsylvania that officials hope will help the school's $59 million convocation center attract conventions and executive conferences.

Despite the latest delay, an official with the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County expressed confidence Tuesday that the hotel being developed privately with help from a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant will be ready by August 2014.

Robert Griffin, the authority's economic development director, said the estimated price tag has risen another $500,000 to approximately $11 million.

He could not say how Cal U's decision announced last week to sever ties with a firm that had booked concerts at the center might impact the school's ability to regularly fill the venue with its arena. But he said the hotel itself finally is progressing.

The 84-room Hampton Inn & Suites, planned for the California Technology Park, would be the borough's first hotel.

"We're seeing contracts executed with subcontractors. Most importantly, we're seeing activity at the site," Mr. Griffin said.

He said construction should be underway by month's end.

"I can only tell you that yes, we do think that a nearby hotel would benefit our conference services operation. However, we will continue to use the convocation center as effectively as we can," Cal U spokeswoman Christine Kindl said when asked about the delay.

"Our Conference Services staff will continue to work with clients for a variety of events that either raise revenue or benefit the University in some other way," she added. "The Convocation Center is a multi-purpose facility, as you know, and conferencing is just one potential use."

Summit Development, a Southpointe firm, is developing the hotel jointly with AVI Food Systems of Warren, Ohio. A groundbreaking was held in September 2011 and work was expected to be finished a year later, but soil issues delayed the work.

Richard Miller, president of Summit, could not be reached Tuesday. Last year, he said engineers found the hotel location was a "fill site" onto which debris including trees had been dumped years ago and buried, possibly from earlier development in the technology park.

That required foundation redesign and removal of about 32,000 yards of soil that presented compaction and settlement problems that could have led to such problems as building cracks. Mr. Griffin said Tuesday the soil problems proved "more extensive than they thought."

education - neigh_washington

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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